Happy moments are within the rabbitfish and spinefish family, Siganidae. They have a rounded body with a small mouth and numerous spines in the dorsal and anal fins which are venomous. Happy Moments have a variable pattern of spots and blotches between day and night, with a base colour of greenish to grey. Juveniles have a small dark spot at the rear of the gill opening that is sometimes retained by adults. They can grow to a maximum length of 41cm, though are most commonly sighted at around 30cm in length.
Happy Moments are a temperate to subtropical species and form two distinct Australian populations on the western and eastern seaboards, Shark Bay to Geographe Bay, WA and Eden, NSW to Yeppon, QLD. Small juveniles tend to be secretive and inhabit seagrass meadows or areas of dense algal growth, whereas adults form schools in algae-rich coastal waters. Happy Moments feed predominantly on algae. A shallow water species, the Happy Moments are found in water depths of 0 to 15 metres.
The name Happy Moments is somewhat contradictory and is in reference to the immediate and intense pain caused by a puncture from one of the spines in the dorsal or anal fins. The pain from such a sting can last for up to several hours.
Other common names include Black Spinefoot, Black Rabbitfish and Dusky Rabbitfish.
Occurrence at the Busselton Jetty
During previous years, Happy moments have been sighted on a daily basis, often swimming through in schools or feeding on weed covering the seafloor or on the jetty piles. Instantaneous colour changes have been observed from a mottled appearance to small even spots covering the body.
Image by: S. Daniels